Dogs everywhere love that we are “sheltering in place” or in lockdown. I mean they live to be with us. So, COVID-19 is one of the best things ever from a dog’s point-of-view. But for some of us, it is a bit of a challenge. Somehow we never realized just how much energy our dogs had. But now being home with him all day, every day his exercise needs becomes more apparent.
All dogs have two kinds of energy, mental and physical energy. Some breeds have more than others. Dogs that were bred for herding, hunting, or any other job typically have more energy to burn. They will often need more than a simple walk to wear them out. So, let’s go through some fun outdoor and indoor activities that you can do with your dog to help burn off some of that extra energy. Remember a tired dog is always a better behaved dog!
Outdoor Fun With Your Dog
Taking your dog for a walk is one of the most fundamental ways to burn both mental and physical energy. It burns physical energy because your dog is walking. It burns mental energy because your dog gets to see new things and smell all the smells. Walkies are often doggie heaven.
If you are allowed to take your dog for a walk, at the park is even better. Dogs love to go on adventures and parks make for great adventures! It is fun for you and your dog. Look up all the parks in your area that are dog friendly and make a point of visiting each one.
You can make walks extra fun and help your dog burn more energy by acting a little crazy. Dogs love it if you change the pace at which you are walking, perhaps you start running or skipping. They will be so surprised! You can also randomly cross the road (when it’s safe) and turn directions you don’t normally go. Walking backward also makes the walk more fun!
Another fun thing to do is take more interest in the walk. See it from your dog’s perspective. Point out things to your dog along the way that you think he would be interested in. Perhaps a bit of fur or feathers or a discarded tennis ball.
You can also do a little doggie parkour. Have him jump over a fallen log or pick up a stick and make a jump out of it. Have him jump up on a bench for a picture. Or walk around on playground equipment with him.
If your dog likes toys, you could secretly bring along a ball or rope toy. Then whip it out for a quick game of tug while you walk. A dog who likes toys will love this!
Not only will these techniques make walking more fun but it also burns more mental and physical energy!
If you have a yard, getting a kiddy pool can be lots of fun for your dog. There are so many fun things that you can do with a kiddy pool. The first is obvious. Fill it with water and let your dog enjoy some fun in the sun.
If you have a northern breed that loves snow, you could fill the pool with ice. Northern breeds like huskies and malamutes love this version of playing in the pool! Be sure to take a video, you will want to see it again.
Your dog not into water or ice? Not a problem! You can also fill the kiddy pool with dirt or sand. Then burry treats in the dirt or sand. Instant digging pit! Most dogs will enjoy the opportunity to dig.
Some dogs love water and water sprinklers can be hugely enjoyable for them. Some dogs just like to get wet while others will try to chase the water. This can be a great activity for kids and dogs to do together.
You can also play tag with your dog. This works great if you have a fenced yard. Chase the dog and tag him. Once he is tagged run away from him. When he gets close to you chase him again. Most dogs love to chase anything that moves, including you! This is a great game for the kids to play with the dog.
Because most dogs love to chase things many will also chase bubbles! If you have a super-high energy dog playing bubbles on a windy day is a good option. Other dogs will be less motivated and chasing bubbles on a day that is not windy is a better choice. Once your dog likes to chase bubbles make it extra fun by making a variety of sizes of bubbles.
If you have a fenced backyard you can also toss your dog’s meals out in the yard. Then he will have to use his nose to find his dinner. Some dogs find this very enjoyable.
However, this should not be done if you spray or otherwise treat your lawn with chemicals. You don’t want your dog to eat these chemicals. Also, any food that your dog doesn’t find may attract wild animals.
You can also work on training your dog for dog sports. Many dog sports can be done in your own backyard! Try things like agility, canine-freestyle, disc-dog training, scenting or tracking, and urban herding. These are all great options to burn lots of mental and physical energy.
Indoor Activities For Your Dog
First, I would recommend getting a Kong or other toy you can fill with food for your dog. You can easily fill these toys with your dog’s normal food. Ditch the bowl and use a Kong instead. Not only will this slow eating, but it also burns mental energy.
Once your dog is good at getting his food out of a Kong you can switch to a different fillable toy. Another thing you could do is pour some bone broth over the food and then freeze the Kong. Give the Kong straight from the freezer, this will make your dog’s meals last even longer!
There are also some fun puzzles toys that you could try with your dog. However, once your dog figures it out, he will find all the food treats faster and faster. So, long term it isn’t really a great way to occupy your dog.
You can also make puzzle toys for your dog. Just Google “DIY puzzle toys for dogs” and you will find lots of options. A simple one is to place treats in the wells of a muffin tin. Then top each well with a tennis ball. The dog will have to figure out how to remove the tennis ball to get the treat.
This is another option for meal feeding. Instead of putting your dog’s food in a bowl or in a toy, you hide it. Typically it works well to hide his food all in one room. Don’t hide them while your dog is in there… dogs always cheat at this game if you do that.
Hide his food and perhaps a few treats around the room. Under a chair, under a blanket, in an empty tissue box, on the sofa, in some boxes, etc. At first, hide food in clumps so that it is easier. Then as your dog becomes more adept and finding the food you can hide fewer pieces together. Until he is only finding one piece at a time.
With this, you will want to be sure that you don’t hide the treats in a place that is too hard for your dog to get too. Or in a place that you think your dog might destroy something to get to the food. Be sure to watch him and intervene if he starts to dig at the sofa cushions or chew up a blanket.
Once your dog is really good at finding all the treats you can hide the food in small boxes and paper towel tubes. Close up the boxes or tubes and your dog will have to tear up the box in order to get the food. Don’t do this if you think your dog will eat the cardboard though.
Another way to up the ante is to switch to hiding the food in a different room. Or hiding the food in a few rooms. Eventually, you can hide the food throughout the whole house if you want too.
Your dog will have to use mental and physical energy to find his meals. More like his wild cousins, wolves. It is also an excellent way for him to get to exercise his powerful nose.
Not sure you want to hide dog food throughout your home? Well, how about a treasure chest? Simply find a box that your dog can either fit in or at least easily get his head and front half into. Then fill the box with his toys and sprinkle his food on top. He will have to remove his toys to get all the treats! Bonus points in you fill some of his toys with food.
If you don’t have enough toys to fill the box and make the game challenging enough, you can fill the box with wadded up pieces of paper. Save the paper for next time to reduce waste.
Of course, you can also play normal games with your dog too. Fetch and tug are some dog’s favorite pastime. If you have a very high energy dog adding a few extra bits of fun is a good idea.
There are two things that you could try with fetch. First, you could try tossing the toy or ball up or down some stairs. This is very tiring for most dogs. But don’t do this is your dog has joint issues or his breed is prone to joint issues. Second, you could put your dog in a stay or hold on to your dog, then toss the ball. Say “3...2...1...GO!” and then release the dog and try to race your dog to the toy! Dogs love the competition of this, even though they almost always win.
You can play hide-n-seek with your dog too. If you have more than yourself at home then the game can be even more fun! If you are alone put your dog in a stay and then hide. After you have a good hiding place call your dog to you. Give him lots of praise, petting, and maybe a treat when he discovers your hiding spot.
If you have multiple people that you can play with, then have one person hold the dog while everyone else hides. Be sure to arrange in what order you will call the dog before you start. Then take turns calling the dog. Again praise and pets and possibly a treat when he finds you.
This is a great way for your dog to burn mental energy when he is trying to find you. It also burns physical energy, because most dogs will zoom around trying to find you. This also gives them a good opportunity to use their nose and ears.
This is hands down one of the favorite activities of most dogs. A good chew will provide both mental and physical exercise for your dog. Chews that are high in animal protein and low in carbohydrates are the best. Things like bully sticks, pig ears, lamb ears, and beef snouts are all great options.
If you want to take it up a notch giving your dog a raw recreational bone is likely the best option. Recreational bones include those that your dog cannot eat. This includes femur bones, knuckle bones, pelvic bones, and more. Be sure to feed them raw and not cooked or smoked, cooking can cause the bone to become brittle and more likely to splinter.
You can feed your dog a raw bone in a room that has an easily cleaned floor, such as the kitchen or a bathroom. Lining the floor with old towels will help to reduce any mess. Also, be sure to observe your dog’s chewing. Some dogs will go at a bone so hard that they will fracture teeth or chew until their gums bleed.
Raw recreational bones will keep most dogs occupied for hours on end. It is both mentally and physically tiring for a dog to chew on a bone. This is a great option if you have a high-energy dog and not a lot of opportunities to exercise him outside.
Training can burn huge amounts of mental energy, which is great for most dogs but especially herding breeds. You can check online or buy a book on tricks to train your dog. Pick a few that you would like to train your dog to do.
Tricks you could train include:
- Teaching your dog the names of his toys
- Leg weaving
- Play dead
- Have your dog jump on your back
- Have your dog fetch you a tissue
- Have him roll himself in a blanket
- Have him turn off the lights
- Have him carry or hold objects in his mouth
- The list is endless!
If you are alone you can virtually challenge a friend. Both of you can pick tricks to train your dog. Choose a date by which you want the dogs to be able to perform the trick. Then on that day video chat and show off the trick!
If you have more people in your household you could do the challenge with everyone in the home. Each person chooses a trick. Then you all decide on a date by which you want the dog to know the trick. Then on that date have a talent show and show off all your dog’s new skills! You could do this with one dog or multiple dogs.
Once you’ve done some training and are having fun with it, you could even look into some dog sports. Perhaps you could train your dog to do dog agility and jump over things, or you could work on a canine freestyle routine. Another option would be to train your dog to help with daily chores around the house!
Be sure to always use positive training methods for the best results. Focus on praising and rewarding your dog for what he is doing right. It is a good idea to keep the training sessions short so the dog will not lose interest. Always end training sessions on a high note with a command that he knows how to do well. Act sad when the training session is over. This will carry over to the dog and he will be that much more excited for the next lesson.
Don’t get discouraged because you are stuck with your dog all day. I mean he is your best friend, right? There are lots of fun activities that you can do with your dog either inside or outside. These activities will help him to burn off some of his excess energy. Plus, the activities are fun for both of you and will help you grow closer and stronger together.